Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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QVMC is a full-service hospital. Lampe and McNair, QVMC nurses, filed suit, alleging: violation of Business and Professions Code 17200; violation of Labor Code sections 206, 218, 226, 510, 1194, and 1198; failure to pay meal break penalties under Labor Code sections 226.7 and 512; inaccurate wage statements under Labor Code section 226; violation of the Private Attorney General Act (PAGA) under Labor Code sections 2698–2699; unpaid wages due to illegal rounding under Labor Code sections 218, 510, 1194, 1197 and 1198; and failure to provide meal breaks under Labor Code sections 226.7 and 512. They moved to certify an “overtime class” of employees who earned overtime bonuses where QVMC failed to properly calculate their regular rate of pay, and alternative work schedule employees who were asked to leave work between the eighth and twelfth hour of their shift and were not paid overtime wages; a “meal break” class with a subclass of all employees who signed meal break waivers; and a “wage statement” class to include any QVMC employee who received a pay stub. The court of appeal affirmed denial of certification, agreeing that individualized issues predominated and the claims could not be proven efficiently as a class. View "Lampe v. Queen of the Valley Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in an action brought under the Labor Code Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). The court held that plaintiff failed to provide adequate notice of his claim to the relevant agency prior to bringing the lawsuit against his former employer Dunn-Edwards. In this case, because plaintiff failed to give fair notice to the individuals involved, he failed to comply with the administrative requirement and the trial court properly granted summary judgment. View "Khan v. Dunn-Edwards Corp." on Justia Law

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The trial court denied class certification in a wage and hour suit challenging whether U.S. Bank properly classified its business banking officers (BBOs) as exempt employees under the outside salesperson exemption. The exemption applies to employees who spend more than 50 percent of their workday engaged in sales activities outside their employer’s place of business. The trial court concluded plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the case is manageable as a class action, stating that it had no evidence establishing uniformity in how BBOs spent their time, despite surveys conducted by the plaintiffs and other voluminous evidence. Plaintiffs satisfied the requirements of ascertainability, numerosity, and adequacy of representation but failed to show common questions of law or fact predominated over individual issues, so class treatment was not superior to other means of resolving the claims. The court of appeal affirmed. A 2015 survey was unreliable for the purpose of showing that common issues would predominate at trial. The trial court properly focused on manageability issues pertaining to the affirmative defenses, while fully understanding plaintiffs’ theory of liability. View "Duran v. U.S. Bank National Association" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant William Bustos sued his former employers, defendants-respondents Global P.E.T., Inc. and Global Plastics, Inc. (collectively, Global) for discrimination. A jury found that Bustos’s physical condition or perceived physical condition was “a substantial motivating reason” for his termination, but nevertheless returned defense verdicts on each of his claims. After trial, Bustos sought an award of attorney fees under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, citing the holding of Harris v. City of Santa Monica, 56 Cal.4th 203 (2013) that “a plaintiff subject to an adverse employment decision in which discrimination was a substantial motivating factor may be eligible for reasonable attorney’s fees and costs expended for the purpose of redressing, preventing, or deterring that discrimination,” even if the discrimination did not “result in compensable injury” for that particular plaintiff. In this appeal, Bustos challenges the trial court’s ruling denying his motion for attorney fees. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court, finding the record did not support Bustos’ contention that the trial court ignored “Harris:” the trial court explicitly acknowledged Harris in its remarks regarding its tentative ruling. The trial court correctly recognized, moreover, that even under Harris, the award of attorney fees pursuant to Government Code section 12695 was discretionary, and it appropriately exercised that discretion. View "Bustos v. Global P.E.T" on Justia Law

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ABM, a facility services company with employees throughout the U.S., has thousands of janitorial workers at hundreds of California job sites. Plaintiffs, present or former ABM employees, on behalf of themselves and similarly situated Californians, filed suit in 2007, alleging that ABM violated California labor laws by failing to properly record and compensate employees for meal breaks; requiring employees to work split shifts without appropriate compensation; and failing to ensure that employees were reimbursed for expenses incurred when traveling between work sites. In 2010, plaintiffs moved for class certification of a general class of ABM workers and subclasses of such workers who had been subjected to particular violations. The court found plaintiffs’ expert evidence inadmissible, denied the class certification motion, and denied plaintiffs’ motion under Code of Civil Procedure 473(b), to supplement the evidence concerning the expert's qualifications. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that materials submitted before the class certification hearing were sufficient to qualify plaintiffs’ expert in database management and analysis; it was error for the court to completely disregard plaintiffs’ proffered expert evidence of common practice, rather than accepting it for what it was and weighing it against any individualized inquiries that might properly have defeated plaintiffs’ request for class certification. The proposed classes were ascertainable and plaintiffs’ allegations presented predominantly common questions. View "ABM Industries Overtime Cases" on Justia Law

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Governor Brown—faced with a statewide crisis involving the significant underfunding of public pension systems—signed into law the Public Employee Pension Reform Act of 2013 (PEPRA) in an attempt to curb what were seen as pervasive abuses in public pension systems, including those governed by the County Employees Retirement Law of 1937 (CERL), Gov. Code 31450. Public employees and public employee organizations in Alameda, Contra Costa, and Merced Counties challenged the constitutionality of PEPRA as applied to certain CERL plan members who were hired before PEPRA’s effective date (legacy members). The court of appeal rejected an argument that the pension boards possess the ability to include additional pay items in compensation earnable, unmoored by the language of CERL, then remanded for determinations of the reasonableness of PEPRA’s detrimental changes when applied to the vested rights of legacy members. The court examined statutory amendments with respect to in-service leave cash-outs; express exclusion of so-called terminal pay from compensation earnable; express exclusion or payments for additional services rendered outside of normal working hours, whether paid in a lump sum or otherwise, from compensation earnable; and exclusion from compensation earnable “[a]ny compensation determined by the board to have been paid to enhance a member’s retirement benefit.” View "Alameda County Deputy Sheriff's Association. v. Alameda County Employees Retirement Association" on Justia Law

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A Public Records Act request in this case was made on behalf of Fowler Packing Company, Inc. (Fowler) and Gerawan Farming, Inc. (Gerawan) in response to the 2015 enactment of Assembly Bill 1513 (AB 1513) codified in Labor Code section 226.2 (Stats. 2015, ch. 754, § 5 (2015 - 2016 Reg. Sess.) eff. Jan. 1, 2016). AB 1513 addressed the issue of minimum wages for employees paid on a piece-rate basis (i.e., paid per task) and included safeharbor provisions that provide employers with an affirmative defense against wage and hour claims based on piece-work compensation so long as back pay is timely made. The safe-harbor provisions contained carveouts that placed the safe-harbor provisions out of reach for several California companies including Fowler and Gerawan. The Public Records Act request at the heart of this case sought in pertinent part: “Any and all public records referring or relating to communications between the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency, its officers, and its staff and the United Farm Workers of America regarding AB 1513;” “Any and all public records referring or relating to the statutory carve out for any ‘claim asserted in a court pleading filed prior to March 1, 2014,’ as codified in AB 1513 section 226.2(g)(2)(A);” and, “Any and all public records referring or relating to AB 1513” and Fowler and Gerawan. The trial court ordered the Agency to produce “an index identifying the author, recipient (if any), general subject matter of the document, and the nature of the exemption claimed” to justify withholding information in response to a request for documents under the Public Records Act. The Agency petitioned for writ relief to the Court of Appeal to prevent disclosure of the identities of the parties with whom the Agency communicated confidentially in formulating AB 1513, the substance of these communications, and communications with the Office of Legislative Counsel (Legislative Counsel) during the drafting process. The Court of Appeal granted a stay and issued an alternative writ to allow consideration. Based on the California Supreme Court’s guidance in Times Mirror Co. v. Superior Court (1991) 53 Cal.3d 1325, the Court concluded the trial court’s order erred in requiring disclosure of matters protected by the deliberative process and attorney work product privileges. Accordingly, the trial court was directed to vacate its order directing the Agency to produce an index disclosing the author, recipient, and general subject matter of documents generated relating to the process of drafting AB 1513. View "Labor & Workforce Development Agency v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant, J. Brent Arave, brought several claims under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) against his former employers, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. (Merrill Lynch), Bank of America (BoA), his supervisor Joseph Holsinger, and a human resources supervisor, Katherine Anderson (collectively, defendants). He sought to recover damages caused by discrimination, harassment, and retaliation based on his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He also sought damages for nonpayment of wages, and whistleblower retaliation. A jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants on all counts that had survived summary judgment and dismissal. The trial court denied Arave’s post-trial motions and awarded defendants, as prevailing parties, costs, expert witness fees, and attorney fees incurred defending against Arave’s wage claim. Arave appealed, alleging numerous alleged evidentiary errors, issues with the trial court’s jury instructions, counsel misconduct, and related claims that he maintained, warranted reversal of the outcome against him. Defendants cross-appealed, contending the trial court abused its discretion when it determined Arave’s FEHA claims were not frivolous and denied them attorney fees on those claims. After careful consideration, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court in all respects but two. The Court concluded the trial court erred by awarding $83,642.68 in costs and expert witness fees though it found Arave’s FEHA claims were nonfrivolous, and therefore reversed the order making the award. However, because a portion of the award could be attributable to Arave’s wage claim, and the trial court erred by awarding $97,500 in attorney fees on the wage claim without determining whether that claim was frivolous, the matter was remanded for the trial court to make those apportionments, as appropriate. View "Arave v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, etc." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal held that plaintiff's dismissal of his individual Labor Code claims with prejudice foreclosed his standing under the Private Attorneys General Act of 2004 (PAGA). In this case, plaintiff filed suit against his former employer, Reins, alleging individual and class claims for wage and hour violations. While arbitration was pending, plaintiff settled his individual claims and dismissed those claims with prejudice. The court explained that plaintiff, by accepting the settlement and dismissing his individual claims against Reins with prejudice, essentially acknowledged that he no longer maintained any viable Labor Code-based claims against Reins. Therefore, plaintiff no longer met the definition of "aggrieved employee" under PAGA. View "Kim v. Reins International California, Inc." on Justia Law

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Cornell, a severely obese woman, was fired from the Berkeley Tennis Club after having worked there for over 15 years. She sued the Club under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA; Gov. Code 12900), for disability discrimination and failure to accommodate her disability, disability harassment, and retaliation; wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, based on her three FEHA claims; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and defamation. The trial court granted the Club summary adjudication of all claims. The court of appeal reversed in part. The Club had the initial burden to produce evidence that Cornell could not establish at least one element of each claim and failed to sustain this burden on the claims requiring Cornell to show that her obesity has a physiological cause. The court properly granted summary adjudication of the FEHA claims alleging that the Club failed to accommodate Cornell’s disability and retaliated against her; the claims alleging that the Club terminated her in violation of public policy based on the FEHA harassment and retaliation claims; and the claim alleging that the Club intentionally inflicted emotional distress on Cornell. View "Cornell v. Berkeley Tennis Club" on Justia Law